Yixing teapot or pot Zisha (literally purple sand pot) is considered a precious piece of traditional art of Chinese tea with a history of over 2,400 years. The Yixing clay is fired at a temperature lower than the porcelain and is unglazed. All Yixing teapots are equal to untrained eyes – no more than 10-15 cm high and diameter, dark matt surface with a matching cap at the top and mouth on the side.
Yixing is a city in Jiangsu Province, which has been part of the Yangtze Delta. The Yixing clay is made by grinding and eroding these rocks, which are richly preserved in Yixing. Yixing clay is found naturally in three colors: ocher, brown and reddish-brown. Whatever the tone, it is largely clay and the unglazed dark part is not bright as porcelain. Other colors are made by mixing of the three colors or adding mineral pigments. A major factor in determining the color depth is the iron concentration in the clay.
It is said that if a Yixing teapot is used for many years, one can prepare a tea only adding hot water inside the pot, without adding the tea leaves. This is due to the special zisha clay they are made of. This porous material, containing iron, quartz and mica which is only found in Yixing. The pot manages to absorb the delicate flavor of the tea so that the flavor grows in intensity with each use.
Unlike, its counterpart the Tetsubin Japanese cast iron teapot which enhances the taste of tea when brewed.” Because of this feature it is recommended NOT to use different types of tea with the same teapot as the flavors would mix. The idea is to use a different teapot for each type / color tea (pure tea). Other attributes of Yixing teapots are their ability to retain heat because the material itself since its porosity favors heat retention. The low shrinkage rate enables the skilled potter to perform very tight lids that inhibit oxidation and increase the flavor of the tea.
Yixing teapots are free of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic materials. Due to the unique properties of Yixing clay, these teapots are not glazed; unlike other clay teapots. They have strong fine texture, an absorption rate of 4% water, very low thermal conductivity and a hole in the lid that improves the properties of the pot when preparing tea.
For all this, the Yixing teapots are not only small works of art turned by hand with care but are also of exceptional quality teapots. They are perfect for making black tea, Oolong and Pu Erh.
Caring for your Yixing teapot
Care of your Yixing teapot is of the utmost importance. Proper care and seasoning are KEY! Yixing teapots are very delicate thus they require special care. After purchasing a Yixing pot, it’s not recommended to brew in it right away.
Clean and seasoning your Yixing teapot.
- Rinse, be sure to give your teapot a good rinse to remove dust or other debris from manufacturing and shipping.
- Place the Yixing teapot in a large pot filled with water and cover. Make sure the pot is large enough so that the teapot is completely submerged.
- Slowly bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for one hour
- Turn off the heat. Let the water cool completely before removing the teapot.
- Put the teapot back in the pot and cover with water again then Add a few tablespoons of the selected tea.
- Bring to a gradual boil then remove from heat then let pot steep in the tea-water for 24 hours.
- Wipe teapot thoroughly inside and out with a clean dry cloth after the curing process.
- You are now ready to start preparing tea in your new Yixing teapot.
Simply rinse the pot with clean water after each use and let it air dry with the top open.
Soaps, cleaners, or other cleaning substances should never come into contact with the pot.
Pricing and purchase
In recent decades, the Yixing clay teapots have increased rapidly in value. Prices may vary anywhere from $40 to collectible ones which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Yixing teapots prices are dependent on such factors such as age, clay, artist, style and production methods. The more expensive pots are shaped by hand using wooden and bamboo tools to manipulate the clay into form while cheaper Yixing pots are produced by slip casting. Yixing clay could be the world’s most expensive mud such this Chinese Yixing Handmade Pure Clay Zisha Teapot . Purchasing a Yixing teapot online may prove to be tricky and a bit of a tough call due to authenticity. The bright side to this dilemma is some online shops provide a free trial period to determine if a pot is a real deal. Some may also ship teapots with a certificate of authenticity and include the artist’s signature.
You can see another Yixing teapot here.